Facts About Nuclear Power

A Vital Economic Engine

  • PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant is a vital local economic engine and brings significant benefits to San Luis Obispo and Northern Santa Barbara counties.
  • Diablo Canyon contributed $919.8 million to the region in 2011 (direct, indirect and induced benefits).
  • Diablo Canyon helps to make PG&E the largest private employer in the area with more than 1,400 workers and a payroll of $202 million in 2011.
  • Diablo Canyon spent $22 million locally in 2011 on goods and services.
  • The plant is the largest property taxpayer in San Luis Obispo County - $25 million for the fiscal year 2011/2012 which helps fund schools, pubic work projects, public safety, and health and other vital services.

Nuclear Power Facts

From the Nuclear Energy Institute

  • There are 104 commercial nuclear reactors with operating licenses at 64 sites in 31 states.
  • There are 439 commercial nuclear reactors in the world, located in 30 countries.
  • Nuclear energy provides about 20% of the United States' electricity.
  • In 2007, nuclear power generated 806.5 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in the U.S.
  • The average capacity factor for U.S. nuclear power plants has hovered at or near 90% since the start of the decade, while electricity production has risen approximately 16% over the past 10 years. The increase in electricity production—from 673 billion kWh in 1995 to 782 billion kWh in 2005—is roughly equivalent to bringing 14 new 1,000 megawatt (MW) power plants into service.
  • Improved operations since 1980—The nuclear industry has managed to increase its average annual capacity factor (from around 56.3% in 1980 to 66% in 1990 and to 91.8% in 2007).
  • U.S. state usage—Six states have nuclear as the largest percentage of their electricity: Vermont (73.7%), South Carolina (51.2%), New Hampshire (46%), Illinois (47.8%), New Jersey (49%), and Connecticut (45%).
  • World usage—In 2007, approximately 15% of worldwide electricity was generated from nuclear reactors. Countries generating the largest percentage of their electricity from nuclear energy were France, 76.8%; Lithuania, 64.4%; Slovakia 54.3%; Belgium, 54%; Bulgaria, 32.1%; Sweden, 46.1%; Ukraine, 48.1%; Hungary, 36.8%; Slovenia, 41.6%; Switzerland, 40%; South Korea 35.3%; Armenia 43.5%. In total, 16 countries relied on nuclear energy to supply at least one-quarter of their total electricity.
  • Nuclear fuel—Nuclear power plants use uranium oxide to generate electricity. Fuel, in the form of small ceramic pellets, is placed inside metal fuel rods. Rods are then grouped into bundles called assemblies. Fission occurs when uranium atoms split, causing a reaction that produces heat energy. This energy is used to boil water into steam, which drives a turbine generator to produce electricity. Every 18 to 24 months, about one-third of the nuclear fuel in a reactor core needs to be unloaded and replaced with fresh fuel.
  • Amount of electricity generated by a 1,000-MW reactor at 90% capacity factor in one year: 7.9 billion kWh—enough to supply electricity for 740,000 households.

    If generated by other fuel sources, it would require:
    • Oil: 13.7 million barrels – 1 barrel yields 576 kWh
    • Coal: 3.4 million short tons – 1 ton yields 2,297 kWh
    • Natural Gas: 65.8 billion cubic feet – 100 cubic feet yields 12 kWh
      (based on average conversion rates from the Energy Information Administration)

To learn more, visit the Nuclear Energy Institute.

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